Helping your child apply to university (UCAS)

At a glance

Understand the university application (UCAS) process as your child prepares for further studies after successful completion of their A-levels and BTEC Level 3s.

The application process (UCAS) –

Your child’s Coach will help with the university application process (known as UCAS), but if you understand the process as well, you can ask useful questions and be sure your child is making good progress and informed decisions.

An application gives your child the chance to make an initial five choices about what they want to study and where. Each choice will either lead to an offer or rejection. An offer is usually conditional on your child getting certain grades at A-level or another level 3 qualifications. Your child should choose two offers of a place, one firm and one insurance which should have lower conditional grades.

Once your child has made their choices they can’t be changed. If no initial offers are made your child may decide to make a further additional choice or wait for their A-level results and apply through a system known as ‘clearing’ for any vacant university places still available.

The UCAS calendar

Mid-September – Applications open and are accessible online via the Track system on UCAS site

Mid-October – The closing date for applications if your child is applying to Oxford or Cambridge, or for medicine, veterinary science or dentistry anywhere.

Mid-January – The closing date for all other applications. You can check the exact dates online at on the UCAS site.

February/March -The offers start to come through online.

May/June – Your child should have received offers or rejections online via the UCAS site. Your child should choose two offers – a ‘firm acceptance’ indicates your child’s first choice and a second ‘insurance acceptance’, which should have lower conditional grades.

August (3rd Thursday of August) – A-level results are published on the third Thursday of the month but will have been passed on to the universities before this day. The UCAS website is updated by Thursday morning, so that when your child logs on at 7 am on Thursday morning they may see which university they have a place at before going into school to find out their actual results.


Making a personal statement

As part of the online application form, your child has to make a personal statement, explaining in around 4,000 characters what they want to study and why, as well as giving an idea about who they are, any extra-curricular interests and work experience they have.

The personal statement can make a big difference to your child’s application. Encourage your child to spend time working on their personal statement and do several drafts to perfect it. The UCAS website offers some good advice for writing a personal statement. The aim is to give a sense of their personality and evidence of why they’re keen to study their chosen subject. This will all be completed on the Unifrog system so that it can be checked and amended by their Coach before they upload to their UCAS application.

Results day

It’s really important to be available on results day because if things don’t go exactly to plan your child may need to contact universities to find out if there are other places available. Sometimes universities confirm a place even if one A level is a grade lower than the conditional offer.

It’s also important to make sure your child follows the instructions on the letter they received making an offer of a place, to ensure they confirm their acceptance if they have the right A-level results.

What is Clearing?

If your child’s grades are lower than expected they can still go through ‘clearing’, a system which gives your child a chance to apply to any courses that still have vacancies. It is worth contacting clearing as early as possible on results day. Vacancies are listed online at


Useful Websites and Resources

For Sixth Form Students and Parents


Courses and where to study


UK University Search

Confused about the number of points your predicted grades add up to?

Need information on how many are required to qualify for your desired course?


Are you looking for more information on where you should study?

  • ……..Everyone should do it! Generates degree courses to suit your interests and links to universities and directly to the university websites. Can refine by location and predicted grades.
  •…more than just an application process, guidance on personal statements, search for courses, deadlines, sign up for a UCAS card and save money.
  • – Help in choosing university and course.
  • -Really useful! Compares universities on % of graduates employed in graduate jobs, % of students satisfied and other key information for prospective students.
  • – The ruthlessly independent guide to UK universities, student life, gap years, open days, student finance, drop- out rates, unemployment after 6 months, M/F ratio, size.
  • -University reviews are written by the students who are studying there.
  • – HEAP’S DEGREE COURSE OFFERS. Universities ranked by degree subjects and entry grades. Includes real interview questions and what universities are looking for.


University league tables…look at the subject tables, not just the overall ranking!


Also useful:

  • The largest student community in the world. Forums on choosing universities/ degrees/student life and much more!
  • Find out when the university open days are.
  • Excellent university taster days. Free for year 12 students. All at London universities. Book from January.
  • Independent website showing the link between the subject studied and careers and potential earning.


Student Finance


Gap Year

The Year in Industry. Paid placements in science, technology, engineering,   maths.


And after your degree……

  • Graduate careers website. Find out what you can do with your degree subject, which jobs are directly related to the subject, jobs where your degree is relevant.


“What Do Graduates Do”- real job destinations



Apprenticeships, Traineeships and Jobs


Voluntary work

  •– a searchable database of volunteer opportunities


Provides information on careers / employment / apprenticeships / applying for jobs / job vacancies / CVs/ university / choices after Year 12/13.